Parsons Essays In Sociological Theory
For Weber, differentiation meant that gods proliferated, and individuals were left to their own devices; for Parsons, differentiation was matched by new modes of integration, and individual choice was guided by shared normative standards. Yet until the end, he also adhered to the Weberian insight that Christian ambivalence toward "the world" could not be resolved.The tension between religious culture and economic action could not be eliminated.Religion played an integral part in Parsons's work from beginning to end.His overall project can be described as an effort to refute a Weberian view of modernity with Durkheimian means.America represented a phase in the Christianization of the world.Parsons's own progressive view of religious evolution in the West actually sharpened his attention to continuing tensions between religious meaning and potentially destructive aspects of worldly human experience.Parsons's treatment of the normative is anti-idealist in principle; institutionalization of values is always a contingent process.Yet the normative pattern that provides a society its identity is the single most important functional facet that Parsons emphasizes throughout. Whatever else it is, a society must be a moral community; those who belong to it necessarily share a religion in some senseand vice versa (190).
Parsons's first and last publications (1928-1929, 1979)on Weber's and Sombart's view of capitalism and on economic and religious symbolism in the West, respectivelydisplay the strong Weberian thrust in all his work.Theoretically, he regarded religion as a source of general images of order and specific societal values, crucial to maintaining minimal coherence in any society.Historically, Parsons interpreted American society as successfully institutionalizing certain values rooted in individualistic, ascetic Protestantism under conditions of social differentiation and cultural pluralism.Parsons trained and influenced many acclaimed scholars, notably specialists in the study of religion such as Robert Bellah, Clifford Geertz, and Benton Johnson.Although he had a direct impact on the work of such scholars, Parsons's ideas, long the subject of extensive debates in sociology, currently have a more limited and diffuse influence than they did during his career.The institutional form of American religion, denominational pluralism, similarly reflected Protestant notions of faith as a matter of individual choice, and organization as a matter of voluntary allegiance.Even American citizenship, aiming for maximum inclusion of all persons irrespective of ascriptive features, appeared meaningfully linked to Protestantism's eminently democratic "priesthood of all believers."For Weber, the modern world increasingly became disenchanted; for Parsons, a liberalized version of Christian culture continued to shape American society in the mid-twentieth century.(1902-1979) Leading American sociological theorist and student of religion; "a somewhat backsliding Protestant of Congregationalist background" (193) who spent most of his career as Professor of Sociology at Harvard University; President, American Sociological Association, 1949; Chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Study of Religion (CSSR, the nascent SSSR), 1952-1953.Parsons developed a general, voluntaristic theory of action, based on influential, imaginative readings of the sociological classics, which he applied to a wide variety of sociological problems.In this respect, he actually extended a Weberian idea.In the West, Parsons argued, religion maintained a crucial cultural role precisely in counteracting the potential dominance of economic thought and action.